Identify the gaps in skills, then solve them
Originally published: February 2017
Do you know which skills, digital or otherwise, are missing in your organization — and how to fill those gaps? Consider a skills audit.
Just as every nonprofit needs a strong and effective board, you also need staff who are equipped to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. By asking staff and board members to take part in a skills audit, you can identify specific areas for training and development.
For example, nearly half of charities in the U.K. lack the basic digital skills needed to raise awareness, streamline processes, grow income and demonstrate impact, according to the U.K. Business Digital Index 2016 report by Lloyds Bank. The report looked at how small businesses and charities are using digital technology, among other things.
Similarly, when a board member resigns or his or her term is up, a skills audit of the remaining board members can help you identify the skills needed from the new board member — such as marketing, finance, business development, leadership, fundraising, PR or policy skills.
How to conduct a skills audit
To conduct a skills audit, ask the following questions of your staff or board:
- What skills does your role require?
- What skills do you currently have?
- What skills will you need in the future?
- What are the gaps?
- How might we fill these gaps?
How you ask these questions will depend on the size of your organization. At a small nonprofit, you might ask these questions face-to-face during an annual appraisal and write up individual reports. At a larger nonprofit, you might create a survey to record and analyze answers. Once you've collated all the answers, look for key themes.
How to fill the gaps
Once the gaps have been identified, there are numerous ways in which to fill them. Depending on the circumstances, you might consider:
Use daily challenges as opportunities to develop staff skills. For example, develop management skills by giving staff members the opportunity to manage volunteers or interns or develop finance skills by shadowing someone in your finance department.
Mentoring or coaching
Sometimes it's best to learn from someone who has direct experience over a sustained period of time. In these cases, a mentor or coach is a good solution. You might look for a contact within your own charity or turn to a formal mentoring program through an organization such as CharityComms or the Institute of Fundraising.
This could entail staff or board members enrolling in an online course or attending a one- or two-day external training course. If many people in the organization have the same gaps, you might consider hiring an expert to provide on-site training tailored to your needs and sector. If staff or board members need more intensive training, enrolling in a long-term course that offers a qualification at the end may be an option — for example, a course in digital marketing or accountancy.
Conferences, seminars and workshops
If employees or board members simply need to brush up on their skills or keep them updated (particularly in the case of digital or technology skills), it might be sufficient to attend conferences, seminars and workshops.
Books, e-books and other publications
In some cases, specialized books can be enough to teach new skills or fill in the gaps. Consider starting a resource library for your organization's training needs.
Recruiting new staff or board members
If the budget allows, you might consider hiring someone who has the skills your organization is lacking. Not only will the new hire plug the skills gap, he or she could provide training for colleagues. If a new hire is out of the question, you might recruit a new board member who could help advise and steer your organization in an area that's currently lacking or needs development — for example, how to develop strategic partnerships.
MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.